Asset Management - Lessons from Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, the story of Idunn stands out as a tale of really bad asset-management by the gods.  According to the myth, the mischievous god Loki was captured by a giant eagle (who turned out to be the giant Thiazi in disguise). As a condition for releasing Loki, the giant demanded that Loki deliver the goddess Idunn and her golden apples to him. Now, these were extremely important apples and effectively the sole source of the gods’ immortality. Without these golden apples, the gods were, well, not really gods. Idunn used to store all of these apples in a little ash-wood box that she carried with her all the time. 

So Loki, being who he was, tricked Idunn and lured her into the woods. Once he delivered Idunn and the golden apples to the giant, Loki returned to Asgard completely oblivious to the devastation that the golden apples’ absence would cause in Asgard. Without the golden apples, the gods turned weak, frail and mortal. Thor immediately suspected Loki and after some not-too-subtle persuasion, managed to get the truth out of him. In typical hero style, Thor kills the giant, saves Idunn and returns the golden apples to Asgard.

Who is to blame for this unfortunate saga? Well, mostly the gods themselves it would seem. Some consider it never a good idea to store your most critical and valuable possessions in a single asset for too long. “Don’t keep all your eggs in the same basket” is a truism for a good reason.

Yet, a large number of people in Australia and New Zealand have all of their wealth concentrated in a single business or in a single investment property. While the returns from such investments may appear attractive, the risks associated with such a single, concentrated investment may not be commensurate with the returns. As clients get older, you should critically evaluate whether it is still worth the risk of having your entire retirement portfolio invested in a single asset. The risks that something negatively impacts your family business or investment property, while pervasive, becomes more acute when you are in the end of your working career. 

At some stage in the investor’s lifecycle it is worth considering:

●        Divesting some of your holdings (i.e. sell the business or investment property).

●        Expanding your investment portfolio into more diversified, less risky assets.

●        Whether you feel you still have the energy and drive to extract the maximum value from the business.

For a confidential discussion about your investment and divestment options, contact your financial adviser.